2012 Federal Legislation

Budget Sequestration Cuts and California Schools

By Lisa Schiff

A friend of mine emailed me last fall incredibly worried about the impact of potential sequestration cuts on schools and students across the country. He was a long-time Washington D.C.-based public education advocate, so I was simultaneously unshaken and unnerved by his concern. Sequestration seemed like a D.C.-based fear, so unlikely to actually happen given the blowback that would surely come from such imprecise cuts. But my friend's many years of fighting for resources for children's education meant that I couldn't really ignore his concerns, and so his words remained a low-level worry until March 1st, when I had to concede that he'd been right all along.

Three-Quarters of Progressive Caucus Not Taking a Stand Against Cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

By Norman Solomon

For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.

While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member caucus seem lost in political smog. Those 54 members of the Progressive Caucus haven’t signed the current letter that makes a vital commitment: “we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits - including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

Sequestration Cuts Threaten California's Comeback

By Steve Smith

It's been a good start to the year for California. We lead the nation in job creation. Our budget is balanced. Unemployment is dropping. Prop 30 stopped devastating cuts to our schools. While we still have a lot of work to dig out from the recession caused by Wall St. greed and excess, there's no question that California is enjoying a major comeback.

But the California comeback could be short-lived if Republicans in Washington, D.C. continue this insane game they are playing with the so-called "sequestration" cuts. These automatic spending cuts would sap $500 million in federal funding from California putting priorities like education, health care and public safety at risk. The cuts could cost California 225,000 jobs.

Transitioning from "Healthy Families" to Medi-Cal: Too Much, Too Soon?

By Linda Leu

Last week, two California Senate Committees, the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review and the Committee on Health, held a joint oversight hearing on the transition of the Healthy Families Program to Medi-Cal. Despite the assurances of Administration officials charged with implementing the transition, legislators' questions demonstrated serious concerns with whether the state will really be ready to move forward on the proposed timeline. The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has proposed that the transition begin on January 1, 2013, with "general notices" going out to families imminently, even though many important details remain undecided.

Katherine Porter's Dogged Work Helps Struggling Homeowners in California

By David Dayen

Tuesday was the first day that the servicing standards for the foreclosure fraud settlement went into effect. The standards, 304 in all, include large changes to the servicer business model, like banning robo-signing, mandating quick decision making on loan modification, providing borrowers with options to foreclosure, establishing a single point of contact and ending "dual tracking" (negotiating a loan modification with a homeowner and starting the foreclosure process on them at the same time). In a negotiated process, the big five servicers had a choice of taking 60, 90 or 180 days to implement the standards. The servicers took the full 180 days. But that ended October 3.

Republican Increase in Visas to Foreign Graduates at US Schools Comes with Reduction in Other Legal Immigration Programs

By David Dayen

In one of their last acts before going home to campaign, House Republicans have passed a bill that will increase the level of high-skill immigrants allowed to stay in the country. It would expand by 55,000 the visas granted to foreign graduates of US colleges and universities in what are known as the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and math. This fits with a key part of Mitt Romney's immigration agenda, which he expressed in a roundtable on Univision last week. He said that any diploma to a foreign student for a high-skill field like this "should come with a green card."

Health Care Reform in California

By Diane Lefer

“The way the health care delivery system developed in this country has been a global scandal,” said Michael Hiltzik, author and Los Angeles Times columnist, as he concluded the community program he moderated August 22 on the effects of the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking at the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles, expert panelists acknowledged the obvious limitations of the act, which was found constitutional (for the most part) by the Supreme Court at the end of June. They also cited new benefits flowing from the legislation. But what became very clear was that there are steps we in California can take to make reform more meaningful even without action on the federal level.

From Tijuana, Ex-Dreamer Calls for Immigration Reform

By Jacqueline Guzmán-Garcia, Translated by Elena Shore

Photo: Nancy Landa at graduation

Nancy Landa was working in the public sector at a California organization that fateful September in 2009, when she was 29. She had graduated with honors in 2004 with a degree in business administration from California State University, Northridge (CSUN), and had a steady job. Everything seemed normal.

All of a sudden, at the Third Street entrance to Highway 710 N toward Long Beach, Landa was stopped by two immigration officials. They got out of a van and, without showing her any official documentation, told her she was under arrest.

“I’m dreaming -- it’s a nightmare,” Landa thought as she climbed in the vehicle with four other people, heading to a detention center in downtown Los Angeles.

GOP Obstruction's Latest Casualty: Paycheck Fairness For Women

By Radhika Raman
Campaign for America’s Future

Senate Republicans voted yesterday to block the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3220), yet another petty political move designed to stick it to the Democrats and eject President Obama from the White House.

Let’s be honest though - it isn’t some Democratic senator on the Hill who is going to feel the effects of this block. Not even Barack Obama himself will directly feel the effects of the Republican Party’s refusal to address important issues such as pay equity. It is ordinary working families who will be hit hardest by this latest example of Republicans turning a blind eye to issues that affect working Americans the most.

The Paycheck Fairness Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries with their colleagues, closes loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, rewards employers who have fair and equitable pay practices, and helps small businesses adopt equal pay policies.

Don't Give Up The High Ground In The Tax Fairness Fight

By Isaiah J. Poole

The gauntlet has been thrown down in the tax fairness fight. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced this week that House Republicans will schedule a vote before the August recess on making the Bush tax cuts permanent for everyone, including the rich and super-rich.

The question now is will Democrats continue to give away the high ground in this fight before the battle even begins.

With members in their districts for the Memorial Day recess, it is a good time to tell your member of Congress, face to face if you can, "Stop cutting essential programs for the middle class and economically struggling to protect and even increase tax breaks for the wealthy. Everyone should pay their fair share of taxes. Let those who are doing good in America do right by America."